Monday, March 12, 2018

Work as Worship Retreat update

I am sending this from Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, where tomorrow we will start a two day training for pastors and church leaders on Discipling Marketplace Leaders.  I am accompanied by Rev. David
Rev. James Kamau
Champness, the new President of ICM, who will co-present with me, as well as Rev. James Kamau, the former ICM Tanzania Director and now Principle of the Africa Theological Seminary, Tanzania.  For the past two weeks Rev. Kamau has been teaching the seminary students on Church-based Business as Mission, a topic that he seems to have fully embraced as crucial for the church.  He wrote us this in a recent email, "I am teaching the Church-based Business as Mission class and loving it.  The students are hearing truths that they have not heard before, and they are wondering how we can get this great truth to a maximum number of people in the shortest time possible.  They want to make me a TV preacher.  NO."

It is exciting when we see various teams in different countries find their own way of promoting this old truth that work can be an act of worship.  It is also exciting that as of March, this has been taught in seminaries in three different countries already in 2018, with the hopes of going further throughout the year.  God is good!

Following this training in Tanzania, we will be moving to Kenya and Uganda, where we will join Dr. Phil Walker and Rev. Steve Kennedy (from the UK), and then later in the month all of us will move to Ethiopia.  Please pray with me for safe travel, good health, and open hearts, minds, and ears to the message that God has given to us to share!

I wanted to update you on the Work as Worship retreat that we had a couple of weeks ago and share with you some of the key quotes that I captured if you weren't able to be there.

On Friday, February 23, about ten thousand people across North America gathered in churches to reflect on the meaning of "Work as Worship."

We heard inspirational speakers and testimonies from Pastors Matt Chandler and Chris Brooks.  Matt Chandler said, "The moment we think that work is work, and Christ is Christ, we lose power to focus." 

Chris Brooks said that the words 'poverty alleviation' just seeks to make poverty a bit more comfortable, and that Christians need to be involved in economic development.  He said that the church is the greatest agent for community transformation and needs to be involved in the diagnosis and treatment of poverty, which is not permanent.

We heard a moving testimony of Anne Beiler, who owns Auntie Anne's Pretzels, and said that she is "not in the pretzel business, but the people business."  This is a key difference for those who do business as mission!

We heard from Joel Manby, former CEO of SeaWorld, who wrote a book called Love Works and how he worked diligently to incorporate love into the work environment.  He said for those who struggle to know how to start when needs are many, "Do for one what you wish you could do for everyone", describing love as a verb.

In my opinion, the best speaker was Phil Vischer, the creator of Veggie Tales, who shared his difficult testimony of challenge in running that business.  He said, "He who has something plus God has nothing more than He who has only God."  Powerful statement.

We also heard from one of my newly favorite authors, Tom Nelson, who has written a number of books including The Economics of Neighborly Love and Work Matters.  He shared from John 15 and reminded us that fruitfulness comes from abiding and for most of us, fruitfulness is vocational productivity.  He reminded us that God's words to Jesus "in whom I was well pleased" were spoken BEFORE he started his ministry, when he had been a carpenter for eighteen years.  He asked, "If Jesus were to give you your job review, what would he say?"

This is only a portion of what we heard in that day.  It was a powerful time with lots of information to process!

Recently I read this quote from C.S. Lewis, who became a Christian at the age of 32 which caused him to reimagine his work as a service to God and others.  He wrote, "The question is not whether we should bring God into our work or not.  We certainly should and must.  The question is whether we should simply (a.) Bring him in in the integrity, diligence, and humility with which we do it or also (b.) Make His professed and explicit service our job."  Lewis didn't change his work upon his conversion.  It changed his relation to his work.

Amen!  How the world would look different if all who claimed Christ as Lord and Savior had this changed understanding of work as worship!